In a recent editorial, the Cape Cod Times pointed out that within ten years the percentage of people over 65 on Cape Cod will grow from 24% to 35%. More than one in three Cape Cod residents will be seniors! The Times was concerned that efforts to better serve this population with regional transport might hasten the exodus of younger people from the Cape:
“…if those of us who are part of the dwindling under-65 segment continue to develop solutions to enhance the lives of the elderly segment of our population without simultaneously addressing the needs of others, including ourselves, it may also become an even more commonly held belief that a young person or family seeking a sustainable lifestyle will be in want of one-way transportation to somewhere other than Cape Cod.”
I agree with the sentiment. The Cape must remain attractive to younger people, for everyone’s sake. But there is one important need of seniors which, when better addressed, will not only help seniors but make it easier for younger people to live on the Cape: Senior Housing.
Affordable housing is a big problem on the Cape and it is exacerbated by the vigorous opposition that arises to defeat nearly every attempt to build affordable housing. This failure to build limits the number of units available, raising rents and home prices, making it harder for young people to afford to live here.
However, senior housing usually receives far less objection than other dense forms of housing, and there is great need for more supply. I work part-time for a non-profit charity providing free counseling to seniors about reverse mortgages; and what I have learned is that for a large and growing number of seniors, a reverse mortgage is not the preferred option. They need subsidized senior housing to make ends meet.
Unfortunately supply is limited and seniors are faced with long waiting lists. They usually need to apply to multiple towns in hopes of getting a good apartment, even though they would much rather stay in their own town. This delays their move and keeps their houses off the market.
When I see schools close (like the Wing School in Sandwich), I think first consideration for the conversion of the empty building should always be senior housing. Creating an adequate supply of these units will not only help seniors with dwindling resources, but it will free up houses and apartments for younger people.